Retirement Living…on the Edge

As we get older, it seems like we are less willing to take risks.  To jump in with both feet and not worry about every possible consequence that can occur.   Over the years we have seen all of the things that can go wrong and we work to protect ourselves and avoid them.  Yet, perhaps retirement is the best time to take a few risks.  We do not have young children that need their mom and dad to be alive and healthy to raise them.  We do not have jobs anymore that we need to be able to accomplish in order to put food on the table.  We do not need to protect our fragile professional egos anymore.   We don’t even have to worry about what other people think or expect of us.  We are freer than ever to explore and take a few risks. 

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much; because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt

I am not talking about bungee jumping off a high cliff or riding a motorcycle at 90 miles per hour without a helmet.  I am suggesting that taking a few small risks at this point in our lives adds color, texture, and interest.  It keeps us from being boring, to others, but more importantly, to ourselves.  These do not need to be big risks, just something that pushes us out of our comfort zone a little.  It can be as simple as inviting a new acquaintance to lunch, learning a new skill, taking an adventurous trip to somewhere new or joining a local “meet-up” group that shares a common interest.   Some risks are physical, but more often than not, they are emotional risks.  You will know it is a risk when your heart beats just a little faster thinking about it.

I tend to be risk adverse when it comes to anything that is going to cause physical injury.  I worked in the ER for many years and saw too many “accidents” that could have been prevented.  It makes an impact on you.  Instead of getting a thrill from skydiving, I would be terrified.  Physical risks are not my thing.  On the other hand, Mr. U is much more willing to jump into things and take some risks.  He keeps our life interesting.  I keep us safe, and he keeps us fun.

Several years ago, shortly after Mr. U retired, he bought an older, low mileage SLK convertible.   I had minimal interest in getting one but who was I to argue since he sold his beloved 1969 Dodge Charger to buy my wedding ring years ago.   I am still not sure what possessed him to buy a convertible at this stage in life.   Perhaps he was rebelling after all those years of driving minivans and large SUVs.  Maybe it was because we finally had a little more discretionary income.  Or perhaps it was a late onset mid-life crisis.  Of course, he could not find this car locally.  It had to be in Chicago, which is over 1700 miles away.  So, he flew to Chicago to drive back his new ride, happy as a clam.  Surprisingly, I am the one that really enjoys the freedom of riding in the convertible with the music turned up loud and the wind in my hair. 

We took a small, albeit calculated, risk last weekend.  Shortly after Mr. U bought the convertible he looked into joining an SLK car club.  Turns out there was a very active one in Seattle, which is several hours away from us.  We signed up and started receiving emails about the various rides they were doing and what they were seeing.  It always sounded fun, but it seemed like we never had the time to join in on one.  Until last weekend.  

It was emotionally risky to hit the send button on the email and ask to join the SLK car club for a weekend trip to Yakima, Washington for wine tasting.   They kindly sent us the itinerary and we booked our rooms.  I almost backed out several times.  After all, we had never met any of these people before.  We knew nothing about them.  What if this was an ostentatious group of people?  What if this group, that had been together for several years, was a tight click and we were left out?  (Visions of not being included with the cool kids in junior high school were haunting my brain.)  Worse yet, what if it was a group of undercover swingers?  After running all these worst-case scenarios past Mr. U, he convinced me that, if any of them turned out to be true, we could just go off and do our own thing.

The weather was lovely last Saturday morning as we gassed up the car, loaded our small bags (because there is not a back seat and very little room in the trunk once the top is retracted into it) and set off to meet the group just outside of Yakima.   The group organizer was great about keeping communications as we waited at our designated meeting spot.  Shortly after we got there, a row of colorful convertibles pulled up with waves and smiles.  This was a good sign.  The trip turned out to be a lot of fun.  And to think, we would have missed out on a lovely weekend to meet new people, eat delicious food, and taste some excellent wine, all because I was fearful of taking a very small risk.

I read an article recently in US News & World Report that stated people 65 years of age and older watch an average of 4.6 hours of TV per day.  Yikes!  I don’t want to sit on the couch for hours and watch the world out there enjoying life and stepping out to take some fun risks.  Life is too short for that, especially while we still have our health.  My risks are usually small, but they keep our lives fresh and interesting.  And it sure beats sitting in front of a T.V. day after day.  Besides being fun, there are numerous benefits to taking risks.

Benefits of taking risks:

  • It is exhilarating
  • It increases our confidence
  • It stimulates our creativity
  • It potentially opens new doors of opportunity
  • It keeps us adaptable, particularly when things don’t go as planned
  • It can lead to self-discovery and personal growth
  • It helps keep our minds active as we learn new things and problem solve unexpected changes
  • It helps us overcome our fears

Imagine a life where no one took any risks.  Where everything was safe, easy and the same, day in and day out.  We need contrast in our lives to keep it interesting. Also, we would not have advanced in our modern world without those that were willing to take risks.  Those that were willing to fail in order to grow.  We would not have the light bulb if Edison was not willing to take a risk and experience failure…  10,000 times.  So what if the risk turns out to be a big flop.  The risks that go haywire maker better fodder for stories to tell later than anything that was executed perfectly anyway.